With all the amazing celebrations, moving ceremonies and glorious jubilations at the 50th anniversary of Jerusalem’s reunification and the liberation of Judea and Samaria from the hands of the Jordanian occupier, it has been easy to overlook the fact that there are some people, yes, even Jews, even Israelis, who cannot bring themselves to celebrate. To them the Six Day War victory means, in effect, that Israel became an “evil occupier”. No matter that one cannot “occupy” one’s own territory, and the previous occupants were indeed occupiers in the worst sense, such timid doubters cannot bring themselves to view Israel’s presence in all of Jerusalem and in our heartland of Judea and Samaria as anything but evil.
In answer to these lily-livered doubters, Gil Troy (not a hard-right extremist by any stretch of the imagination” has a hard-hitting answer. He calls these people “Cowards who fear celebrating Jerusalem’s Jew-bilee”:
It’s reassuring to smell cowardice in opponents, but depressing to see it in friends: the quivering lips, the darting eyes, the sweaty palms. Alas, many American Jews are emitting the stink of the scaredycat these days. Too many are dodging the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the Six Day War, and especially of Jerusalem’s reunification – or burdening what should be festive celebrations with craven equivocations and politically correct genuflections about Palestinian suffering that obscure Israel’s extraordinary June 1967 triumph.
Seeking to avoid war is noble; apologizing for winning is disgraceful. I am proud that Jews sing songs of peace, crave reconciliation and regret killing. However, true peaceniks are realistic optimists, not naïve masochists.
Had Israel lost in 1967 there would be no Israel.
“Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel,” Egypt’s dictator Gamal Abdel Nasser vowed that May. Those were the stakes: Jewish women would have been raped then slaughtered; Jewish men would have been tortured then butchered. Jerusalem would sit atop one more layer of ruins – from the 19-year failed Jewish state. Tel Aviv would be a mass tombstone, reduced to rubble like the Jewish towns Palestinian radicals destroyed after the 2005 Gaza Disengagement, but this time with corpses rotting underneath.
And while Palestinians masquerade as victims, having convinced many that the Palestinian problem began when Israel won in 1967, consider two inconvenient truths. The PLO began three years before the Six Day War, in 1964, demanding Palestine’s complete “liberation,” defining the land as an “indivisible territorial unit,” and negating Zionism, rejecting all “claims of historic and spiritual ties between Jews and Palestine.” Furthermore, the PLO’s founding chairman, Ahmad Shukeiri, joined the bloodthirsty chorus that stressful spring of ’67, calling the upcoming war “a fight for the homeland – it is either us or the Israelis. There is no middle road.”
Beyond authoritatively teaching that losing would have annihilated Israel, history suggests that if Israel had not won decisively, Palestinians and the international community today would demand territory from within the pre-1967 borders.
In 1967, while the Arab defeat calmed Jews and freedom- lovers worldwide, Jerusalem’s liberation and reunification unleashed a euphoria worth replicating when celebrating today. The secular Israeli commander Motta Gur’s redemptive declaration – “the Temple Mount is in our hands” – united religious and secular Jews thrilled that Israelis were healing Jewish history’s great traumas – the Second Temple’s destruction, millennia of persecution, millions slaughtered in our powerlessness.
When the army’s chief rabbi, Shlomo Goren, blew his shofar by the Western Wall, that piercing sound stirred Jews who hadn’t realize how much they cared about Israel – and supported Israel enthusiastically ever after. When the IDF showed how the Jordanians trashed the Old City’s synagogues, Jews appreciated the victory even more – reminded again what could have happened. And when those gruff kibbutznikim who killed in the Golan Heights, bled in the Sinai, cried at the Wall and mingled delight in the victory with sadness at being forced to kill, Jews toasted their humanity.
AFTER JUNE 1967, Jews thronged to Jerusalem, ascending, relishing the aftermath, this bizarre, then-novel phenomenon of happy, proud, strong, successful Jews. The great Jewish liberal Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., captured American Jews’ mood. “The major weakness was to take the State of Israel for granted, to cease to wonder at the marvel of its sheer being,” he wrote. “We forgot the awful pangs of birth, the holiness of the deed, the dedication of the spirit. We saw the [Tel Aviv] Hilton and forgot Tel Hai.”
Too many American Jews take Israel for granted today. Looking toward this meaningful milestone, can’t we try, for once, to appreciate Israel because of a happy event, not a trauma; can’t we embrace the Jewish state out of love, not dread? We must be brave enough to cheer this victory, understanding that Israel deserves a Jerusalem “Jew-bilee” jamboree – and that our enemies are more likely to respect us and even compromise when we are resolute – not wimpy.
In a similar vein, but written much more poetically, the following is what the late Elie Wiesel wrote about Israel’s victory just mere days afterwards, on June 12th 1967:
Future generations will probably never believe it. Teachers will have a hard time convincing their students that what sounds legendary actually occurred. The children will, naturally, swallow each word, but later on, as adults, they’ll nod their heads and smile, remarking that these were fantasies of history.
They won’t believe that this small state, surrounded by hatred, fire and murder, had so quickly managed a miracle. It will be hard to describe how, amid a sea of hatred, a tiny army drove off and humiliated several well-equipped military hordes of who knows how many Arab countries.How does acclaimed scholar and talmudic genius Shaul Lieberman put it? In another 2,000 years, people will consider these events the way we think of descriptions of the Maccabees and their victories.
Did I say another 2,000 years? No, make that in another year, or even tomorrow.
Last Sunday, the Arabs and their allies were boastfully threatening Israel that if she dared to make another move, she’d pay with her existence. And several hours later our Jewish heroes advanced, and the entire world, holding its breath, followed their every movement.You’ll recall the radio broadcasts at the beginning of the week that sounded practically Job-like. Every hour, another Arab government declared war against Israel. Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia. And then: Morocco, Tunisia, Algiers. In Tunisia, an incited mob led a pogrom in the Jewish Quarter. Other Muslim — or part Muslim — countries rushed to sign up in [Egyptian president Gamal Abdul] Nasser’s “holy war.” Malaysia, Sudan, Mali, Guinea and more.…
And then, between Passover and Shavuot, the Hanukkah miracle occurred. It didn’t take long before the supposedly mighty enemy was rendered speechless and lost its nerve. Even the Soviet Ambassador to the UN, Nikolai Fedorenko, suddenly changed his tone. Instead of worrying about whether Nasser would finally curb his appetite for power, world leaders began looking for ways to make amends to Israeli Premier Levi Eshkol.
It was as though a theater director, unfamiliar with his cast, suddenly switched the parts of his actors: those who had stubbornly opposed us now asked for mercy, as their former protectors now distanced themselves from them. Overnight, the mood at the UN Security Council seemed unrecognizable.
…We all need to recite the Hallel thanksgiving prayer for being granted the privilege of witnessing these events. The battle has not yet ended, but the enemy has already retreated and won’t easily recover.
It may well be that future generations won’t comprehend how Israel vanquished her enemies. Yes, there are sacrifices, but in the long run nothing gets lost.
And yet the blood that was shed by our young lions, the sacrifices endured, everything will be inscribed. Each widow’s tear, every death rattle of the fallen soldiers – they won’t pass unnoticed by our descendants.
For Jews around the world, these last events are a deep source of pride. Every Jew witnessed and survived this trial together. Rarely, as a people, do we feel such a deep connection to each other, of loyalty to the purest principles driven by our shared history.
This new Jewish awakening is part of that miracle, a part of the Jewish victory. Those who thought Jews were frightened by huge armies were mistaken, and those who thought you could separate the Jewish state from the Jewish people around the world clearly underestimated us.
Those are stirring words to live and act by. Both Gil Troy’s article, but especially Elie Wiesel’s, should be required reading for all liberals, Jewish students, be they American, European or Israeli, or any other social justice warriors who are about social justice for all except for Israelis in their homeland.